How Giovani Lo Celso Starting to Show his Playmaking Capabilities for PSG

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Giovani Lo Celso is currently away in the USA. He’s doing his best to break into Paris Saint-Germain’s first-team, and as a young player with plenty of talent, he’s on his way to doing just that. He enjoyed a solid showing in PSG’s most recent friendly match, which was played against AS Roma, and the highlight of his outing was undoubtedly his passing.

The left-footed playmaker, who hails from Rosario, Argentina, has all the tricks when it comes to his distribution. He can link up in tight spaces, something which he probably developed playing as a No. 10 for Rosario Central, and he can hit longer balls as well. There was one moment, early in the second half, where he played a delightful ball out to PSG’s onrushing right-back, Dani Alves, with a little clip of his left boot. Nothing came of the lofted pass, with the Brazilian star failing to produce anything meaningful after receiving possession, but Lo Celso’s contribution was nonetheless excellent.

For further evidence of this kind of range in his passing, you only need to look to some of his late exploits for PSG last season. Out on loan for the first half of PSG’s 2016/17 season, Lo Celso returned for the latter part of the campaign. He found it tough to break through initially, with manager Unai Emery describing him as a player for the future at that point in time, but he managed four appearances in the closing weeks of Ligue 1. That allowed him to showcase his superb ball use, and when he came on late against Bastia, he not only struck the crossbar but also involved himself in a supreme piece of play.

Lo Celso kicked things off by receiving the ball in a deep left-of-centre location, and he followed that with a neat outside-of-the-boot pass to Edinson Cavani, who was sitting out on the left wing. Lo Celso then continued his run, and Cavani responded by returning the ball to him. Now inside the area, Lo Celso found himself confronted with a defender, but with the drop of a shoulder and a slick bit of dribbling, he breezed past his marker. He then assessed his options before shooting at goal, and with a lovely lob of the ball, he had the keeper beaten. Marquinhos may have stolen the limelight to some degree, as he got the final touch on a Lo Celso shot that was already goalbound, but the PSG players knew who to go to. They sprinted out to celebrate with Lo Celso, and the 21-year-old thoroughly enjoyed the moment.

Now, this attack showcased more than just Lo Celso’s passing – there was also some slick dribbling and shooting thrown into the mix – but his initial pass was typical of how he likes to go about it. He swept the pass into Cavani’s path with the outside of his left, and this is something he does again and again. Against Roma, he made use of this skill regularly, and though it highlights the fact that he is incredibly left-footed, that’s not exactly a bad thing. After all, there’s something unique and entertaining about watching a playmaker use the outside of his boot, and when you think of guys like Tomas Rosicky launching these types of passes, it’s tough not to smile.

If you’re after a more conventional effort, though, Lo Celso’s assist for Julian Draxler, in a game against St. Etienne, was a thing of beauty. He picked up possession just behind the halfway line, took a couple of steps to steady himself and, with his wand of the left foot, fizzed a long-range ball in behind the opposition defence. Draxler latched onto it without breaking stride, such was its precision, and tucked the ball home with ease.

In addition to his passing, Lo Celso also boasts the ability to move intuitively. Although more typically deployed as an attacking midfielder during his time in Argentina, he looks pretty comfortable in PSG’s 4-3-3 formation, which doesn’t make use of the traditional No. 10 position. He has the smarts to drift into deeper positions, often in behind PSG’s onrushing fullbacks, to pick up possession, and he’s also happy to shuttle further forward when needed as well. He finds pockets in advanced positions with regularity, something you would expect given his upbringing as a more attacking player, and as the example from the game against Bastia illustrates, he can also arrive in the area and have an impact in that sort of position.

Throw in a tidy first touch and an ability to weave around players, and he’s got a bit of Javier Pastore about him. Even in the way he moves, there’s the same kind of languid gait as that of his Argentinian compatriot, and this, in combination with his footballing attributes, makes him a very elegant player to watch. As Cesar Delgado, a footballer who spent time with him at Rosario Central, once noted, Lo Celso is a ‘complete player.”

He might, of course, have to learn a few things about playing in a deeper central midfield location on the pitch, but the talent is clearly present. There may, however, come a time when his one-footedness needs to be addressed. There are moments when you simply can’t rely solely on the outside of your boot to get you out of trouble, and despite his strong dribbling in tight spaces, there were a couple of instances against Roma where he lost possession due to being hemmed in on his left side.

Overall, though, Lo Celso, who featured for Argentina at the 2016 Olympics, is an impressive talent. Whether he makes it into Emery’s plans for the upcoming campaign remains to be seen, but regardless of that, he’s a thoroughly South American midfielder with the kind of flamboyant quality that demands attention. Soon enough, that should see him break through, at least to some degree, in the French capital.